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Why I Wrote a Book about Leadership
By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker
Soon, I’ll be publishing a book about leadership. Here are some of the reasons why.
Lessons in Humanity:
If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you can glean that the keys to good, effective leadership are found in acting more human. That means treating people with civility, manners, and good sense, regardless of the circumstances. I encourage you to ask yourself some questions about the behavior in your organization. Ask about culture, values, and you can even learn how classic literature reflects the lessons learned about how to act with concern and consideration. How human is your organization? Do you feel like a “slot” or a person?
You may have noticed inconsistencies in what leaders do and say, and we all know, actions speak louder than words. What’s important about consistency is that people need to know what’s coming next. Leaders who speak out of both sides of their mouths are not to be trusted. Without trust, the organization can easily spin out of control. Morale plummets and people go through the motions, just to collect their paychecks. To understand how your organization builds trust, there are a number of questions for you to ask yourself and your leaders about how behaviors reflect the mission, vision, values, and goals of your company. What do you think of those who say one thing and do another? To erase confusion and establish trust, leaders need to be on the same page as everyone else. Think about the popularity of the governor of California violating his own mask and social distancing requirements during the 2020 pandemic. He decided to go to dinner at an expensive restaurant, unmasked and without social distancing, after he imposed a crushing lockdown on the entire state. He put his whole political career on the line due to the incongruency of his behavior.
It’s no fun working for a weak boss, you know, the one who avoids hard choices and leaves big decisions to fate. I hope you’ll be prompted to recognize the milquetoast in the corner office and how to get creative to manage him or her. These people are easily manipulated and may even defer to the loudest voices and cower when upper management makes ridiculous requests (like requiring all signatures in ink, not by electronic means.) Imagine what extra work is caused when people are not collocated, and you need to get an actual pen and ink signature to complete an important project. You’ll be challenged to strategize a workaround plan for working with these lily-livered types who make work a most dreadful experience because the boss would rather make you run around chasing rainbows than challenge the rule that makes no sense. This person doesn’t want to rock the boat, and doesn’t care a fig about you, he’s only going to protect him/herself.
Drama in the Workplace:
Do you arrive at work each day expecting some crazy characters, bizarre scenes, and ingenious plots to unfold? My hope is to give you ideas about how to avoid drama and work through the inventive scenarios and backdrops you may witness on a daily basis. Avoiding workplace drama is a definite survival strategy, and it’s a good thing to learn early in your career, because you don’t want drama to define your trajectory in your industry or profession. I’d love to hear your thoughts about drama queens and kings in your organization. I bet Hollywood wouldn’t believe you.
Why Women Are Their Own Worst Enemies:
It may sound strange to you, but it’s one of those “dirty little secrets” that no one likes to talk about. No doubt, the obvious questions are: How do we eliminate gender bias? What does pay equity mean for women at work? How do we eliminate sexual harassment and offensive language at work? What about childcare and the Mommy track? These are among the most common elements that are detrimental to women’s career growth. But when we pull back the curtain of truth, we begin to notice that one of the most egregious barriers to women’s progress in the workplace is women themselves. Why is that? One major concern is that women don’t consider themselves worthy enough, meaning women don’t ask for the promotions or raises. They believe that their boss will automatically notice their brilliance and elevate them because they’re so good. Not true. Add in the mix that women don’t support each other at work and compete more against each other, and you have a very good recipe for why women stay stuck. There’s a lot more to it, but you can see where this discussion is headed.
How Literature Reflects Real Life:
Based on my years as a high school English teacher, I noticed that so much behavior in leadership was well defined in our existing body of literature, from Shakespeare to Orwell, to William Golding and Joan Didion. It wasn’t a stretch to draw comparisons from the novel, Lord of the Flies, to the tribal behavior manifested in recent political events. During the 2020 pandemic, we heard over and over that the pandemic would subside soon, and it wasn’t really that bad despite all proof to the opposite. But that didn’t stop many Americans from indulging in Magical Thinking, or delusions as described in the book, The Year of Magical Thinking. Straight talk became a myth and we had to tease out truth from double talk or “doublethink” as in the 1948 novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. If you read McBeth, Taming of the Shrew or Henry V, you can easily recognize issues of truth, delusion, treachery and leadership in these works.
So much has inspired me over the years, I couldn’t keep it bottled up. I had much to talk about working in corporate America. But most of all, the lack of caring behavior, the mental and psychological roughing up of employees, the lack of personal concern and consideration and the genuine hypocrisy when it came to what was stated as “values” and the behavior of many leaders. What I learned was the most important ingredient in leadership is the ability to demonstrate humanity in every interaction with other people. As my father used to say, “engage your brain before you engage your mouth.”
Connect with Mary:
Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.
Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.
Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.
Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.